Jeanette Anna MacDonald (June 18, 1903 – January 14, 1965) was an American singer and actress best remembered for her musical films of the 1930s with Maurice Chevalier (The Love Parade, Love Me Tonight, The Merry Widow, and One Hour with You) and Nelson Eddy. She also recorded extensively, earning three gold records.
She was born in Philadelphia, the youngest of three daughters, and sang as a child in plays performed in schools and churches around the area. At 16, she travelled to New York and appeared in many Broadway productions throughout the 1920s, and was spotted by Richard Dix — a popular silent movie actor of the time, who gave her a screen test for a film in pre-production that he would be starring in, but her theater contract wouldn't allow her to leave production. However, the footage would bring her to Hollywood anyway when Ernst Lubitsch was surfing through footage of Broadway actors to hire, and MacDonald was cast in The Love Parade.
Throughout the 1930s and '40s, MacDonald was a popular leading lady for musical movies. Unlike actors of the time that would stay with the same production companies, she often hopped from studio to studio, appearing in musicals for MGM, Warner Bros., and Universal. À la the page quote, MacDonald was notorious for being somewhat of a Ms. Fanservice, particularly in The Pre-Code Era, having at least one (arguably gratuitous) Lingerie Scene and/or a moment where she'd flash her legs at other characters, which most likely added to her popularity, as well as the calls for a strict censorship. Lovable Redhead, indeed.
In between the musicals, MacDonald toured the world singing, doing it frequently during World War Two for charities. Opera was her specialty, although she didn't take it up until the 1940s, reaching out to Lotte Lehmann, who was one of the biggest opera stars of the time and couldn't believe that a movie star would be interested in something seen as too elite. It allowed her to return to Broadway after retiring from Hollywood in the 1950s, but she was still a household name and appeared frequently on television and toured the country singing up until her death.
MacDonald's older sister Edith was an actress in her own right. Known professionally as Blossom Rock, she was famous for being Grandmama on The Addams Family. A proud Jeanette would apparently drop everything to watch every episode on TV.
Films with pages on TV Tropes:
- The Love Parade (1929)
- Monte Carlo (1930)
- One Hour with You (1932)
- Love Me Tonight (1932)
- The Cat and the Fiddle (1934)
- The Merry Widow (1934)
- Naughty Marietta (1935)
- San Francisco (1936)
- Smilin' Through (1941 version of the 1932 film)
- I Married an Angel (1942)
Her career and characters showed examples of:
- The Cast Showoff:
- Her singing is justified since she was in a lot of musicals. However, she also learned dancing as a child and got to show off her skills in many films.
- Learning horse-riding helped her chase a train on horseback in Love Me Tonight.
- Hilarious in Hindsight: In this newspaper piece◊ from 1935 to promote Naughty Marietta, a snippet of the caption reads, "As vivacious as her red hair, Jeanette plays every part that is given her with a twinkle in her eye — and a naughty twinkle!" Come 1942's I Married an Angel, and her character Anna has to learn how to be a convincing liar in the song "A Twinkle in Your Eye". One would think Anna would be an expert...
- Quirky Curls: Jeanette's hair is naturally curly so all her characters had hair like this too. Many of them were rebellious and/or flirtatious women.
- Soprano and Gravel: Most of her duets were this; her soprano to any male singer's gravel.
- The Tease: Occurred more in her Pre-Code movies when she was free to do risky double entendres, but Jeanette could play coy so well, regardless.
- Those Two Actors: Commonly starred in films with Nelson Eddy and Maurice Chevalier.
- Throw It In: There are a few of her on-set bloopers and incidents that are left in her films.
- Two incidences of her corpsing (I Married an Angel, New Moon). In the former, she completely burst into laughter and made Nelson Eddy chuckle, but was in-character for the situation.
- In Cairo, she rested her elbows on a table◊, catapulting a fork against her jacket. She reacts in surprise and has a stain on her sleeve for the rest of the scene.
- Her tears are real when she is singing "Who Are We to Stay" in The Girl of the Golden West.
- Although more a Funny Background Event, in Naughty Marietta, a puppy in her arms in one scene is licking her cleavage.
- What Could Have Been: She didn't want her film career to end as abruptly as it did at the end of the 1949 and tried everything to appear in another movie or even get a spot on TV, even though she wasn't a fan of the new media. It didn't help that the majority of her 1940s' films were box-office bombs and her type of movie musicals were falling out of touch with previous audiences, or that she was constantly in and out of hospitals.